Australians’ trust in government at an all-time low

The percentage of Australians who say they have trust in their governments has declined to 35 percent. The metric is contained in the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, which measures public trust in four types of institution across 28 countries.

The result in Australia comes despite the overall level of trust is government across all countries surveyed rising by 2 percentage points in the last year. Australia is now in the bottom third of the countries surveyed.

The countries with the lowest levels of trust in government are South Africa (14 percent) and Brazil (18 percent). There was a precipitous drop in the USA, where trust in government declined from 47 percent to 33 percent.

The figure puts Australia on the same level as Spain (where the number grew by 9 percentage points), Ireland, the UK and Japan. The countries with the highest level of trust in government are China and the United Arab Emirates, neither of which are democracies.

While it is easy to understand the reasons for the decline in trust in government in the USA, the decline in Australia is harder to fathom. But looking at the level of trust Australian’s place in the other three institutions measured, it seems it is part of a general decline in public trust across the board.

Australians’ level of trust in the media declined by 1 percentage point to 31 percent, the second lowest (after only Turkey) of all the countries measured. Our trust in business declined 3 percentage points to 45 percent. The trust in brands of companies based in Australia declined by just 1 percentage point, and is still quite high at 63 percent.

The highest level of trust in Australia is in NGOs (non-government organisations), but even there trust declined 4 percentage points to 48 percent. Again, we are about two thirds of the way down the list.

“Decreasing trust in government is the result of another unsettled year for Australian politics,” said Steve Spurr, CEO of Edelman Australia.

“Government uncertainty over energy supply, citizenship and the banking royal commission, in addition to continued infighting across the political spectrum, has resulted in a nation that largely does not trust its government

“It is deeply troubling that a majority of Australians believe their government is broken. But there is also an opportunity for businesses to stand up for the public on issues they believe are not being addressed.

“Corporate Australia’s strong and unified support for the marriage equality campaign demonstrated the institution’s ability to be a driver of societal change, and may have raised public expectations for future advocacy.”

The report says that in modern society, citizens delegate important aspects of their life to the four institutions.

“In order to feel safe delegating important aspects of our lives and well-being to others, we need to trust them to act with integrity and with our best interests in mind.

“Trust, therefore, is at the heart of an individual’s relationship with an institution and, by association, its leadership. If trust in these institutions diminishes, we begin to fear that we are no longer in safe, reliable hands. Without trust, the fabric of society can unravel to the detriment of all.”

Australia was one of only two countries in which the level of trust fell across all four institution types measured. (The other was Singapore, where overall levels of trust nevertheless remained much higher than in Australia),

Across the globe technology (75 percent) remains the most trusted industry sector followed by education (70 percent), professional services (68 percent) and transportation (67 percent). Financial services (54 percent) was once again the least trusted sector along with consumer packaged goods (60 percent) and automotive (62 percent).

The Edelman Trust Barometer can be found here.


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